Today is my eighteenth birthday and there is only one present I truly want.
It seems like I’ve always wanted this particular gift.
He watches me now from across the room, as usual, his gray-green eyes peeking out from beneath the brim of his cowboy hat. His lean is casual against my parents’ dining room table, those rugged arms crossed over his chest, but there’s an air of tension about him. A crackle of life surrounding the man that warns his pose might seem relaxed, but he can streak like lightning if provoked.
I bring the fork to my mouth and lick off the frosting slowly.
Am I imagining things or does a ripple go through Miles?
Not wanting to be caught staring by my father, I swing my gaze around the room, smiling at some of the other guests, mainly friends of my dad and some of the more trusted farm employees, like Mooney, our horse trainer.
Earlier this week, I had a birthday dinner in town with my friends from school and this is more of a family gathering.
Remembering the way Miles sat outside the restaurant, waiting for me to finish dinner so he could drive me home safely, makes the nape of my neck tingle now. Is my self-appointed caretaker still watching me from across the room?
I don’t get the chance to look, because my father comes up beside me and pats me on the shoulder. “Are you having a good birthday, honey?”
“Yes.” I smile brightly. “The best.”
“I can’t believe it.” He lets out a hoot and slaps his knee. “My girl is eighteen. Can you believe it, Miles?”
A short pause. “No. I can’t.”
My father has had more than usual to drink and the alcohol has made him merry, nostalgic. “You’ve known her since she was in pigtails,” he says to Miles. “Ain’t that right?”
A muscle pops in Miles’s jaw. “She stills wears her hair in pigtails sometimes.”
Hot molasses churns in my tummy. Does he like when I braid my long blonde hair in pigtails? Or is he irritated by the childish style? It’s hard to tell. This man is impossible to read even though I’ve known him half my life. He’s taught me how to ride a horse, mend a border fence and predict the weather, but for the life of me, I don’t know if he regards me as a child…or a woman.
I’ll find out tonight.
I can still remember the first time my body responded to Miles. His strength and masculinity. His power and presence. It was the summer I turned fifteen when the restless frustration started and it has yet to abate. There he was one afternoon, offloading bales of hay at the entrance to the barn, his shirt off, those hair-covered muscles glowing in the sun, his hair in disarray like he’d just come from bed.
Without knowing what I needed—or how I’d get it—I ran to my room and unfastened my jeans, shoving my fingers into my underwear and searching, searching, until I found the spot that felt good, felt right, and I rubbed myself silly thinking of Miles and his big chest. His flexing arm muscles and how they would feel around me in the dark.
My first orgasm was in Miles’s name. As well as every one since.
But they’ve lost their luster. I need more than my own touch.
I need him.
“Been meaning to tell you, Miles,” continues my father, jolting me from my lustful reverie. “We’ve got a farm hand coming for an interview tomorrow. Some young kid from up north. Seemed nice over the phone.”
Miles’s hand pauses on its way to pick up his bottle of beer, then slowly starts moving again, his big fingers sliding around the neck. “He got references?”
“Yes. If the interview goes well, I’ll check them before hiring.”
“Uh-huh.” Miles takes a long pull of his beer. “Could use some help.” His eyes stray to me and seem to deepen in color. “But only if he’s fit to be around the girl.”
I love and hate when he calls me that. Love it because at least he’s recognizing the fact that I’m the opposite sex. Hate it because I want him to see me as a woman. The girl is usually how he refers to me when speaking to my father, but I don’t know why. Maybe I’ll ask him tonight. When we’re alone.
My father is chuckling at Miles’s response. “You always have been mighty protective of Cassie, haven’t you?” He cradles his drink to his chest, eyes distant like he’s digging through memories. “Wasn’t it a couple of years back when you had me fire the groundkeeper for spitting tobacco in Cassie’s presence?”
“Sure was.” With a deep groove forming between his brows, Miles pushes off the table. “If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to turn in for the night.”
As I’ve done countless times, I imagine him slipping into the sheets of his bed, naked, that hard-working body finally at rest. A flurry of heat takes place beneath my belly button. Is tonight going to be when I find out what he really looks like in bed? Will I finally be sliding into those sheets beside him?